Kyle Busch Wins At Chicagoland

Kyle Busch and his No. 18 on their way to victory. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)

Kyle Busch and his No. 18 on their way to victory. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)


by Paul Gohde

Like so many old romance movies, the young couple meets and falls in love. They have an argument, make up, marry and live happily ever after.

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson may not follow that entire plot, but the argument and happy ending part were just one of the plots for Sunday’s NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race at a very warm Chicagoland Speedway. The happy-ending part for next week; we’ll see.

The rubbing and banging that the two engaged in at the end of today’s Overton’s 400-mile race, an ending that showed the true passion to win of both drivers, had much of the crowd up in arms; another chance to boo Busch they thought.

Busch hadn’t scored any points in either of the first two stages of the race. The race had been dominated by the likes of Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick, but the two Kyle’s would be heard from in Stage 3. The Busch crew worked to get his problematic car right and slowly made it a contender, while Larson moved to his favorite part of the track, the top groove, and began to chase down the leaders as the final laps wound down.

“I felt like I had winning speed, but the move to the top gave me momentum to catch the leaders,” Larson explained as he got by Harvick for second on lap 248. “I tried to time it out to get to them with about 10 laps to go, but my balance was pretty tight. With 10-12 laps to go I didn’t know if I had any chance to get him (Busch).”

The Busch crew made the right magic on his Joe Gibbs Toyota and with about 60 to go he grabbed the lead by passing Harvick, but “slow cars dropped me back to him (Kyle Larson)” as the final laps were about to unfold.

“I thought he was going to pull a slide job on me, but he didn’t, but came inside instead,” Busch said. “He bumped men and once contact was made it was every man for himself.”

“I didn’t want to run into him. I made a plan to squish into him and bog him down,” Larson said, defending his move. “So, OK, I hit him first. I roughed him up and he roughed me up.”

Busch made the final, race-winning move as the last lap wound down. “He used me and I kinda’ used him. I gave him what he tried to give me,” as the next contact put Larson’s Chip Ganassi Chevrolet into a race-losing slide that sealed his second-place fate.

The two met in victory lane, held inside the garages as the predicted rain began to fall, and peace was made, with both drivers seeming to enjoy the non-politically-correct battle.

“I went down there and talked to him. It was a lot of fun, hard racing. I can’t get mad at him. I’m on the short end of the stick, but it was lots of fun,” the 25-year-old part-time sprint car driver said.

“I enjoy racing with Kyle [Larson]. We absolutely raced each other hard but clean” the winner of his fifth race of the season and first Cup-series win at Chicagoland admitted. “If you don’t like that kind of racing,” he told the booing crowd, “don’t even watch.”

There were other battles during the early race laps as unexpected leader Aric Almirola won Stage 1 over Larson, Martin Truex and Kurt Busch. But Almirola, who led a race-high 70 laps, suffered two loose wheels that brought him to the pits twice for unscheduled repairs while leading and took him out of contention, finishing 25th. “I’m disappointed but you’ve got to be flawless all day.”

Almirola’s Stewart Haas teammate, Clint Bowyer, was also strong in the early portion, but three penalties in succession for speeding while exiting the pits put his Ford two-laps down. With creative pit stop strategy, the team got back on the lead lap and avoided the Busch/Larson battle to finish fifth. “You can gain tenths of a second on pit road. We practiced it yesterday. We know we had a problem; the second penalty and then the third.”

Harvick fought a tight-handling SH Ford to third place followed by Truex and Bowyer.

The mood of the crowd seemed to change as a light rain began to fall after Busch’s usual post- race bow. Larson and the winner seemed happy with the results and Busch said how much the duo enjoy racing each other and told of their mutual respect.

Next week at Daytona may be different as high-speed battles like today’s may have different results and different emotions afterward. We’ll see.




Share Button